New Jersey was front and center as a hotbed of social conflict and reform between 1890 and 1940. Progressive reform initiatives took hold in New Jersey after 1900, and peaked during the governorship of Woodrow Wilson (1911-1913), when this Democratic governor was successful in enacting reforms dealing with election law, workmen's compensation, the regulation of public utilities and others that vaulted New Jersey into the forefront of reform states. Much of this work was founded on the grassroots efforts of local and statewide reform groups, many of them led by women and including the New Jersey Federation of Women's Clubs, the National Consumer League, the Women's Christian Temperance Union and others. At the same time, labor-management conflicts in New Jersey, one of the nation's most urbanized and highly industrialized states, highlighted the continuing efforts of workers to improve their compensation and working conditions. The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 was a landmark conflict in the state's industrial history, when 23,000 silk workers struck the city's silk industry for five months.
The core issues raised by the workers--limiting the work day to 8 hours and sustaining what they considered to be humane and effective working conditions--were integral to the efforts by many groups in the labor movement to improve the quality of their lives on the job.
The two curriculum modules in this section of Electronic New Jersey invite teachers and students to investigate two issues that were at the center of these nationwide struggles: the plight of child laborers (Child Labor in New Jersey) and disputes dealing with the content and impact of industrial production processes (Paterson Strike of 1913). Study of these two modules can deepen understanding of how efforts in New Jersey to deal with social conflict and reform either mirrored or diverged from national trends on both topics.
Golin, Steve. "Paterson Silk Strike." In Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen, editors, The Encyclopedia of New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Paulson, Martin. "Progressive Era." In Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen, editors, The Encyclopedia of New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.